I don’t know if we’ve put anything on the backburner longer than teaching Madison how to ride a bike. She and I had all of those pre-Cole and Avery summers together to get into it, but we never did. I guess it doesn’t surprise me that the pressure of a deadline motivated Lynnette (mostly) and I to finally give it a try. She’s got a bike safety class in school this year. “Are you the only one that can’t ride a bike?” Lynnette asked Mad last week. “No, there are others,”Mad replied. “How do you know? Did they make you guys raise your hands?” Lynnette asked. “Yeah,” Madison responded casually.
Madison’s first bike was one of those Minnie Mouse deals with training wheels and tassels on at the edge of the handlebars that would tickle Mad’s thighs and eventually lead to more scratching than bike riding. We bought this pink, blue, and white bike a couple of years ago, but it was too big for Madison then. This was literally the first time she got on a trainerless bike. The first thing that Lynnette did was rip off the tassels and stuff them into the little pouch at the front of the handlebars. I assume in time Madison will fill the pouch with snacks and then the empty wrappers of those snacks. For now, though, she probably shouldn’t put anything in there, you know, so as not to disrupt her delicate balance.
Coach Lynnette made an appearance and I’m glad Coach Phil didn’t. I mean, of course Coach Phil’s voice showed up – “KEEP PEDALING!” “IF YOU’RE LOOKING AT YOUR FEET, YOU’RE NOT LOOKING WHERE YOU’RE GOING!” “START TURNING!” – but it was Lynnette who did the hands-on teaching. I got to take pictures and push the twins around.
It was slow-going to start the lesson. Lynnette began by holding the back Madison’s seat to balance her, but it didn’t help much. Just like when Mad started her dance classes, she had a difficult time doing more than one thing at a time. In this case, she couldn’t pedal and steer at the same time because she couldn’t look at her hands and feet at the same time.
Once we got to the basketball courts I told Lynnette to let her go. “She gotta learn,” I said. Incidentally, this single statement defines my entire teaching and parenting philosophy. There are some things people have to find out for themselves, you know?
Lynnette reluctantly released her grip on Mad’s seat and we learned that we were worried for no reason. It was a miracle! Madison was off and riding. She moved in somewhat wobbly straight lines, then figured out how to turn. I instructed her to apply the breaks, then reaccelerate. She did both on the first try.
It’s not perfect – she still struggles in narrow spaces because she thinks she’s going to bang into a fence or wall or car or tree or the grass or some oncoming object 50 feet in front of her. She’s asked to go out agin today, and I know that we have to. She needs reps on the bike to get better, to feel comfortable. “Whoa, Madison,” Lynnette said in a slightly mocking manner. “Pretty soon you’re gonna be riding around Nohona with all your boy friends.” Madison and I both scoffed.
As I tailed Madison home I laughed; it took her 9 years, 4 months, 10 days, and 10 minutes to learn to ride a bike. But she only started in the last 10 minutes.